By Priyanka Jaitly Judge
“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” – Ignacio Estrada
Every child is differently abled. When we talk of inclusive education we are aiming to remove all boundaries to provide an ecosystem that caters to each individual. However, our understanding of the boundaries that exist is quite short-sighted. While there is intent, effort and optimism around addressing the learning needs of differently-abled children we need to view learning needs under a bigger umbrella.
Parental instinct can often make parents a chronically worried species. There are a lot of children and parents that silently rough out their learning need through a large part of their schooling. Most parents want to discuss their child’s challenges that they hesitantly may bring up only if they can join the dots somewhere with another parent and child. There is need for inclusion. The list of these psychological and physical boundaries can be neverending. Certain manifestation of different learning needs that are not being addressed are:
The most predominant boundary that we need to assess for each child today. Even as every parent tries to build a positive attitude towards the experience of schooling there are a huge number of children who feel anxious within the confines of the school or classroom setting. Sometimes, it is very evident and also natural to a certain extent given how challenging or novel a situation may be. But at other times it may manifest itself as a child wetting his pants in school, stomach ache or may be even getting aggressive. These may further be broken into various forms such as separation anxiety, social anxiety, selective mutism, generalised anxiety, paranoia and even phobias.
The fearful child
Children today are more aware and yet more confused. The social fabric of parenting that now has long-distance relationships between parents, single parenting or day care parenting as common trends today leaves a lot about the child unnoticed and unsaid until it reaches a level that is clinically listed. Parents and teachers are both primary caretakers that need to step up as anchors that the child can be fearless around in being himself.
Fear psychosis is somewhere becoming a part of our collective consciousness. With crime rates crossing all limits irrespective of age or gender the humans of today are experiencing a constant underlying fear. Our children are getting this unhealthy legacy and some are more affected than the other.
Some children experience more chronic fear than the others. From severe phobias of water or stray animals to trust deficit they have as a mental debris of the caution they are to exercise at all times can impact the child affecting his participation and demonstration of various interests and inclinations.
This fear doesn’t have to be necessarily debilitating, it could be mild yet greatly limiting. Something as simple as the fear of getting reprimanded by a teacher in class for speaking up could lead to chronic fear.
The left-handed child
They may be just 10 percent of the population but they are writing with what many call the opposite hand. It requires the support of the teacher to help the child with the grip and help him in keeping pace and accuracy with all other classmates. A left-handed child has to learn simple things such as how to use a scale or sharpen the pencil differently as compared to the rest of his class just as an example. At an early age they cannot even comprehend why they are writing differently or are relatively slow in the initial years. It’s a learning need that calls for a lot of perspective.
The stammerer or the child who isn’t speaking enough
Parents observe their child with a lot of positive intent. Very often there are children who have a delay in speaking or speak just one or two words compared to others their age. There are also children who have too much to say or cannot process the information overload around them and start stammering while speaking for a certain duration. We all can stutter or stammer sometimes when we are trying to speak too fast or when we get nervous or confused. However, if this happens over a prolonged period of time due to a combination of psychogenic or neurogenic factors it leads to social isolation, low self-esteem and may be even an inherent helplessness. This needs representation in the need for inclusion as it impacts learning and positive adaption.
Children form early and strong associations to situations that intimidate them or affect them in an unpleasant manner. They also vary on their sensitivity meter with some being indifferent to a rude remark while others living with it in his conscious mind forever. Inclusive education needs to look at boundaries in personalities and temperaments, in motor and verbal skills that are more implicit and not a disorder but a need nonetheless. Taking initiative, performance in extracurricular activities and even in academic has a lot to do with these early associations a child makes.
We need to study the big chunk of students who remain silent spectators and understand the implicit boundaries in the educational ecosystem.
“All kids need is a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them.” -Magic Johnson
(The writer is a fulltime mom and writer, who has a Masters in Psychology and also works as a management consultant.)